Nora and Sid Getz bring the rich, storied flavors of their homelands to their small, colorful restaurants, La Tiendita, and their new, “lanchonete,” Via Brazil.
Nora was born in Mexico City. Sid is a native of São Paulo, Brazil and spent some time in Colombia and Venezuela. They have been at the helm of La Tiendita on North Monroe Street since 2017 and they’ve gradually been transforming the restaurant into a homey, authentic destination for Latin and Portuguese cuisine.
Nora makes her own mole poblano from scratch, a dish that harkens back to her home. “My mother taught me how to make it,” she said.
Another specialty here is the tacos de Birria, made with a savory, slow-cooked stew that’s often a star of special occasions in Mexico
Sid and Nora have decided to offer tacos de Birria as a regular menu item because they were overwhelmed with orders when it was offered only occasionally.
“People would be on our website at 5:30 a.m. to order them,” said Sid. “ We’d have a day’s worth of calls before we opened.”
Tacos de Birria are a classic from the state of Jalisco in Mexico that can be made with beef, lamb or goat. La Tiendita’s version is made with beef, onions, cheese and cilantro stuffed into corn tortillas cooked on the griddle — incidentally, the fresh-made tortillas at La Tiendita are also a big deal here.
The tacos are dipped in the cooking broth, which gives the tortillas extra flavor and a rich russet hue. The broth, made with the beef juices and dried chilies, is served on the side as a dip. Think of an au jus. It was so good my husband wanted to slurp it up.
“The tacos are like a Mexican French dip,” said Sid.
He notes that the tacos take quality meat, which is priced high right now. The couple also grinds their own chiles and other spices by hand, using imported ingredients such as the queso Oaxaca (cheese) from Mexico.
You get three tacos to an order, with the broth and lime wedges, so we ordered six tacos to go. They were so good we managed to eat them all in one sitting.
We also savored chicken enchiladas. We had two orders, one with red sauce and the other green. The piquant red sauce is slightly hotter than the fruitier green, but both are delectable. The enchiladas are served with yellow rice with bits of carrots and distinctive refried beans better than most servings — you can taste the whole beans.
La Tiendita offers a large daily Mexican menu offering breakfast items as well as fajitas, tortas, enchiladas, enchiladas, burritos, quesadillas, entrees, chilaquiles, vegetarian dishes, several sides and a long list of desserts.
There’s a menu for “little amigos” as well as drinks such as hibiscus sangria, tropical juices and the drink horchata (a rice drink flavored with cinnamon and sugar).
Fridays are Brazilian nights at La Tiendita, a true treat. We loved a starter of coxinha de Frango, similar to a fritter or croquette with shredded chicken wrapped in dough, shaped like a teardrop and deep fried. We had two of these and they were wonderfully addictive.
We shared an entree of picanha, the traditional Brazilian flame-grilled steak served with linguiça, a plump garlicky sausage, served with fried yuca, white rice and black beans.
Sid said he prefers to cook the meat himself. “One grows up with the taste in your DNA,” he explained.
The Getz’s new restaurant and market, Via Brazil, is adjacent to La Tiendita, accessible through an open archway. Via Brazil will be open for lunch soon plus customers can already find a range of products Sid and Nora love from their native countries, including a salted and dried beef called carne seca, feijoada meat packets, cassava flour, imported cheese and various brands of bread and coffee. They also plan to have fresh and uncooked hand-made linguiça served in the restaurant for sale and uncooked picanha available for churrascos.
Other additions: This week they started making fresh French bread rolls in their bakery located in their newly remodeled basement. “Pão Frances is what we call it in Portuguese,” said Sid.
The couple is planning to remodel a section of the parking lot to create a patio with tables, chairs and umbrellas.
The couple has owned the restaurant for three years and it has made a drastic difference in their lives since coming here from Brooklyn in 2013. Their son Dylan was only 2 when they left the city where they owned two jewelry/fashion stores and a printing company.
The couple moved to Tallahassee after visiting friends here and liking the town. But once here they were unsure if they made the right decision. They found a refuge at La Tiendita, which means “little store,” said Sid.
“It used to be a Mexican market before it was a restaurant,” said Sid. Nora started working there, “waitressing, cooking, washing dishes. Whatever it took to run it, I did it,” she said.
The couple bought the place in 2017 and they’ve been making it their own, adding personal mementos.
“Everything that’s here means something,” said Nora.
Most importantly, their son, now 9, is at the restaurant with her and her husband, drawing, reading while they work long hours.
The coronavirus has been a challenge for the family.
When the governor first ordered a restaurant shutdown, La Tiendita closed for 15 days but continued to pay its employees. They had to adjust to offer takeout, which “wasn’t really our model,” and now they’ve adjusted to 50 percent of their seating.
Sid and Nora had opened a restaurant in Monticello but after the virus, they closed it to focus on La Tiendita and all their new ventures.
“We’re so grateful that we decided to stay and we love our new community,” said Sid. “We feel so at home here and feel like we have found our purpose. “
La Tiendita is at 1840 N. Monroe St.; 850-523-1494 or latienditatally.com. Hours: 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday to Thursday, to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. The restaurant is open for takeout, delivery and dining in.